Monday, July 21, 2008

Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo

If you all remember, back in May we did Book 1 in the Dreamhouse King series, House of Dark Shadows. Which was amazing. My dad concurs. *grins* I have been impatiently watching this book near the top of my stack as this date approached and flew threw it this morning. (Which is why this post is a little later than I'd like it to be.)

Watcher in the Woods is just as good, if not better, than Book 1. I liked that we got to get into Dae's head more in this book. (I love that nick-name... *sighs*) The house keeps getting more mysterious, more dangerous. And just dang exciting. For the reader anyway. *smiles* I doubt the Kings see it as "exciting".

So the Dreamhouse Kings books are utterly amazing. I have just one question. Do we really have to wait until January?

It's July 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and his book:

Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)


Robert Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Here are some of his titles:

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Comes a Horseman



Product Details

List Price: $14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595544968
ISBN-13: 978-1595544964



At twelve years old, David King was too young to die. At least he thought so.

But try telling that to the people shooting at him.

He had no idea where he was. When he had stepped through the portal, smoke immediately blinded him. An explosion had thrown rocks and who-knew-what into his face. It shook the floor and knocked him off his feet. Now he was on his hands and knees on a hardwood floor. Glass and splinters dug into his palms. Somewhere, all kinds of guns were firing. Bullets zinged overhead, thunking into walls—bits of flying plaster stung his cheeks.

Okay, so he wasn’t sure the bullets were meant for him. The guns seemed both near and far. But in the end, if he were hit, did it matter whether the shooters meant to get him or he’d had the dumb luck to stumble into the middle of a firefight? He’d be just as dead.

The smoke cleared a bit. Sunlight poured in from a school-bus-sized hole in the ceiling. Not just the ceiling—David could see attic rafters and the jagged and burning edges of the roof. Way above was a blue sky, soft white clouds.

He was in a bedroom. A dresser lay on the floor. In front of him was a bed. He gripped the mattress and pushed himself up.

A wall exploded into a shower of plaster, rocks, and dust. He flew back. Air burst from his lungs, and he crumpled again to the floor. He gulped for breath, but nothing came. The stench of fire—burning wood and rock, something dank and putrid—swirled into his nostrils on the thick, gray smoke. The taste of cement coated his tongue. Finally, oxygen reached his lungs, and he pulled it in with loud gasps, like a swimmer saved from drowning. He coughed out the smoke and dust. He stood, finding his balance, clearing his head, wavering until he reached out to steady himself.

A hole in the floor appeared to be trying to eat the bed. It was listing like a sinking ship, the far corner up in the air, the corner nearest David canted down into the hole. Flames had found the blankets and were spreading fast.

Outside, machine-gun fire erupted.

David jumped.

He stumbled toward an outside wall. It had crumbled, forming a rough V-shaped hole from where the ceiling used to be nearly to the floor. Bent rebar jutted out of the plaster every few feet.

More gunfire, another explosion. The floor shook.

Beyond the walls of the bedroom, the rumble of an engine and a rhythmic, metallic click-click-click-click-click tightened his stomach. He recognized the sound from a dozen war movies: a tank. It was rolling closer, getting louder.

He reached the wall and dropped to his knees. He peered out onto the dirt and cobblestone streets of a small village. Every house and building was at least partially destroyed, ravaged by bombs and bullets. The streets were littered with chunks of wall, roof tiles, even furniture that had spilled out through the ruptured buildings.

David’s eyes fell on an object in the street. His panting breath froze in his throat. He slapped his palm over his mouth, either to stifle a scream or to keep himself from throwing up. It was a body, mutilated almost beyond recognition. It lay on its back, screaming up to heaven. Male or female, adult or child, David didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. That it was human and damaged was enough to crush his heart. His eyes shot away from the sight, only to spot another body. This one was not as broken, but was no less horrible. It was a young woman. She was lying on her stomach, head turned with an expression of surprised disbelief and pointing her lifeless eyes directly at David.

He spun around and sat on the floor. He pushed his knuckles into each eye socket, squeegeeing out the wetness. He swallowed, willing his nausea to pass.

His older brother, Xander, said that he had puked when he first saw a dead body. That had been only two days ago—in the Colosseum. David didn’t know where the portal he had stepped through had taken him. Certainly not to a gladiator fight in Rome.

He squinted toward the other side of the room, toward the shadowy corner where he had stepped into . . . wherever this was . . . whenever it was. Nothing there now. No portal. No passage home. Just a wall.

He heard rifle shots and a scream.

Click-click-click-click-click . . . the tank was still approaching.

What had he done? He thought he could be a hero, and now he was about to get shot or blown up or . . . something that amounted to the same thing: Dead.

Dad had been right. They weren’t ready. They should have made a plan.


David rose into a crouch and turned toward the crumbled wall.

I’m here now, he thought. I gotta know what I’m dealing with, right? Okay then. I can do this.

He popped up from his hiding place to look out onto the street. Down the road to his right, the tank was coming into town over a bridge. Bullets sparked against its steel skin. Soldiers huddled behind it, keeping close as it moved forward. In turn, they would scurry out to the side, fire a rifle or machine gun, and step back quickly. Their targets were to David’s left, which meant he was smack between them.


At that moment, he’d have given anything to redo the past hour. He closed his eyes. Had it really only been an hour? An hour to go from his front porch to here?

In this house, stranger things had happened. . . .


Friday, July 18, 2008

Mid-Morning Crisis

Today is the full moon. I had hoped for 5,000 again. Now I'm thinking my 200 or so is pretty good. And the computer should be shot.

I had a mid-morning crisis. I wrote say 1,000 words, lost them, cried, and now am trying to get up the courage to start over. Suck. I'm barely managing to type this.

After I came down from my crying jag, I got in the laundry and was going to have lunch when Grandma stopped by. Grandma from down Texas Grandma, who is by the way coming for supper, say 5:30 and spending the night as of... yesterday?, so I knew I would have to get my writing in early. That left me 7-8 hours. I thought I could handle it.

But then came the crisis, and there went 2 hours of possible recovery time chatting with Grandma. Not that I did much talking. In fact, when they first showed up, I was just trying hard not to burst into tears again.

Now I have three hours left and practically 0 words written even though I sat here at the computer for an hour writing. They're gone.

I am so getting a keystroke log on my computer.



Monday, July 14, 2008

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

We read this book for ACFW a couple months ago. I actually won the book! This was that time when I won two books in one day. Yeah, never gonna happen again.

But the book, the book was good. Romance, shocks of monumental proportions, wars, yummy guys! What more could a girl want? (Hey, I'd recommend it to a guy too.) And the end... Oh, for awhile there, I wasn't sure what she was going to do, but Lessman worked it out perfectly. *sighs* Very satisfying.

Sometimes a girl just needs a good romance, and A Passion Most Pure did a wonderful job, though, I admit, the suspense was agonizing. And, hey, I hear we're doing Book 3 next year for FIRST. I can't wait.

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

A Passion Most Pure
Revell (January 1, 2008)


Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. Her first book in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, was released January 2008, to be followed by the second in September 2008, A Passion Redeemed, and the third in May 2009, A Passion Denied (working title).

You can visit Julie at her Web site.

Product Details

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Revell (January 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800732111
ISBN-13: 978-0800732110


“To the man who pleases him,

God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness,

but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to

hand it over to the one who pleases God.

This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

– Ecclesiastes 2:26

Chapter One

Boston, Massachusetts, Late Summer, 1916

Sisters are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it. Faith O’Connor stood on tiptoe behind the side porch, squinting through her mother’s prized lilac bush. The sound of summer locusts vibrated in her ears as she gasped, inches from where her sister, Charity, stood in the arms of––

“Collin, someone might hear us,” Charity whispered.

“Not if we don’t talk.” Collin’s index finger stroked the cleft of her sister’s chin.

Faith’s body went numb. The locusts crescendoed to a frenzy in her brain. She wanted to sink into the fresh-mown lawn, but her feet rooted to the ground as firmly as the bush that hid her from view.

Three years had done nothing to diminish his effect on her. He was grinning, studying her sister through heavy lids, obviously relaxed as he leaned against the wall of their wraparound porch. His serge morning coat was draped casually over the railing. The rolled sleeves of his starched, white shirt displayed muscled arms snug around Charity’s waist. Faith knew all too well his clear, gray eyes held a maddening twinkle, and she heard the low rumble of his laughter when he pulled her sister close.

“Collin, nooooo …” Charity’s voice seemed to ripple with pleasure as her finger traced a suspender cinched to his striped trousers.

“Charity, yes,” he whispered, closing his eyes as he bent to kiss her.

Faith stopped breathing while his lips wandered the nape of her sister’s neck.

Charity attempted a token struggle before appearing to melt against his broad chest. She closed her eyes and lifted her mouth to his, her head dropping back with the ease of oiled hinges.

Faith rolled her eyes.

Without warning, Collin straightened. A strand from his slicked-back hair tumbled across his forehead while he held her sister at arm’s length. His expression was stern, but there was mischief in his eyes. "You know, Charity, your ploy doesn’t work.” His brows lifted in playful reprimand, making him appear far older than his twenty-one years. He adjusted the wide, pleated collar of her pink gabardine blouse. “You are a beautiful girl, Charity O’Connor. And I’m quite sure your doe-eyed teasing is most effective with the schoolboys that buzz around.” His fingers gently tugged at a strand of her honey-colored hair before tucking it behind her ear. “But not with me.” He lifted her chin to look up at him. The corners of his lips twitched. “I suggest you save your protest for them and this for me …"

His dimples deepened when his lips eased into that dangerous smile that always made Faith go weak in the knees. In one fluid turn, he backed her sister against the wall, hands firm on her shoulders as his mouth took hers. Then, in a flutter of Faith’s heart, he released her.

On cue, Charity produced a perfect pout, stamping her foot so hard it caused her black hobble skirt to flair at her ankles. Collin laughed out loud. He kissed her on the nose, grabbed his coat and started down the steps.

"Collin McGuire, you are so arrogant!" Charity whispered, her voice hissing as if through clenched teeth.

"And you, Charity O'Connor, are so vain––a perfect match, wouldn't you say?" He headed for the gate, whistling. Charity stormed inside and slammed the door. Collin chuckled and strolled toward the sidewalk.

Faith crept to the lilac hedge at the front of the house and peeked through its foliage. A stray ball from a rowdy game of kickball rolled into the street. Collin darted after it just as a black Model T puttered by, blaring its horn. He jumped from its path, palming the ball with one hand. In a blink of an eye, he was swarmed by little boys, their laughter pealing through the air as Collin wrestled with one after another.

All at once he turned and loped to a massive oak where tiny, towheaded Theodore Schmidt sat propped against the gnarled tree, crutches by his side. Raucous cheers pierced the air when Collin tossed his coat on the ground and bent to carefully hoist Theo astride his broad shoulders. The little boy squealed with delight. A grin split Collin’s handsome face. He gripped Theo’s frail legs against his chest and sauntered toward home plate. Scrubbing his palms on Theo’s faded, brown knickers, Collin dug his heels in the dirt and positioned himself. The pitcher grinned and rolled the ball. The air was thick with silence. Even the locusts seemed to hush as the ball wheeled in slow motion. Faith held her breath.

Collin’s first kick sailed the ball five houses away. Champion and child went flying, the back tail of Theo’s white shirt flapping in the breeze as Collin rounded the bases. They crossed home plate to a roar of cheers and whistles and all colors of beanies fluttering in the air like confetti. Theo’s scrawny arms flapped about, his tiny face as flushed as Collin’s when the two finally huffed to a stop.

Faith exhaled. Everybody’s hero, then and now.

Collin set the child back against the tree. He squatted to speak to him briefly before tousling his hair. Rising, he snatched his coat from the ground and slung it over his shoulder. The boys groaned and begged for more, but Collin only waved and continued down the street, finally disappearing from view.

Faith pressed a shaky palm to her stomach. She closed her eyes and leaned against the

porch trellis. A perfectly wonderful Saturday gone to the dogs! All she had wanted when she slipped out the back door was to escape to her favorite hideaway in the park. To write poetry and prayers to her heart’s content in the warm, September sun. But no! Once again, her sister had managed to strike, foiling her plans for a blissful afternoon of writing and reverie. Her eyes popped open and she kicked at a hickory nut, sending it pinging off her mother’s copper watering can.

It was bad enough Charity attracted the attention of every male within a ten-mile radius. Did she also have to be the younger sister? It was nothing short of humiliating! Faith plunked her hands on her hips and looked up. “Really, Lord, she’s sixteen to my eighteen and fends off men like a mare swishing flies. Was that really necessary?” She waved her hand, palm up, toward the infamous porch. “And now this? Now him?”

Faith jerked her blanket from the ground and slapped it over her shoulder. Retrieving her journal and prayer book, she thrashed through the bushes. She glanced at the side porch, leering at the very spot he held her sister only moments before. The impact hit and tears pricked her eyes. She swatted at something caught in her hair. A twig with a heart-shaped leaf plummeted to the ground, in perfect synchronization with her mood.

Her sister had it all––beauty, beaus and now the affections of Collin McGuire. Where was the justice? In Faith’s world of daydreams, he had been hers first, smitten on the very day Margaret Mary O’Leary had shoved her against the schoolyard fence. Helplessly she had hung, the crippled runt of the fifth-grade class, pinned by bulbous arms for the crime of refusing to turn over her mother’s fresh-baked pumpkin bread.

“Drop her, Margaret Mary,” the young Collin had said with authority.

The pudgy hands released their grip. “Cripple!” Margaret Mary’s hateful slur had hissed in Faith’s ears as she plopped to the ground, the steel braces on her thin legs clanking as she fell. The girl’s sneer dissolved into a smile when she gazed up at Collin, her ample cheeks puffing into small, pink balloons. “Sorry!” she said in a shy voice. With a duck of her head, she wobbled off, leaving Faith in a heap. Bits of bread, now dusted with dirt, clumped through Faith’s fingers as she stared up in awe. It had been the first time she ever laid eyes on him. Never again would her little-girl heart beat the same. He was tall and languid with an easy smile—Robin Hood, defending the weak.

“D’she hurt you?” he had asked, extending his arm.

The gentleness in his eyes stilled her. Shaking her head, she opened her hand to reveal a mangled piece of bread. Without thinking, she tried to blow off the dirt, misting it with saliva. “I don’t suppose you want some?”

The grin would be branded in her brain forever.

“That’s okay, Little Bit,” he said with a sparkle in his eye, “I’ll just help myself to some of Margaret Mary’s.”

Her mind jolted back to the present. Faith blinked at the lonely porch and sniffed. Jutting her chin in the air, she flipped a russet strand of hair from her eyes. “I refuse to entertain notions of Collin McGuire,” she vowed. Her lips pressed into a tight line. It’s just a crying shame Mother hadn’t found them first!

As if shocked at her thought, the sun crept behind a billow of clouds, washing her in cool shadows. She crossed her arms and glowered at the sky. “Yes, I know, I’m supposed to be taking every thought captive. But it’s not all that easy, you know.”

A curl from her half-hearted chignon fluttered into her face. She reached to yank the comb from her hair, shaking her head until the wild mane tumbled down her back. Hiking her brown gingham skirt to her knees, she ignored the curious stares of children and raced down Donovan Street.

She was almost oblivious to the faint limp in her stride, the only mark of her childhood bout with polio. Some of the children still laughed at the halting way she walked and ran, but Faith didn’t care. If anything, it only made her chin lift higher and her smile brighter. That slight hitch in her gait––that precious, wonderful gimp––was daily proof she had escaped paralysis or worse. She needed no reminding that countless children had perished in the Massachusetts polio epidemic of 1907, her own twin sister among them. She shuddered at the memory while her pace slowed. God had heard the prayers of her parents––or at least half. She alone had survived. And more than survived––she’d never need braces again.

Masking her somber mood with a smile, she waved and called to neighbors, flitting by the perfectly groomed three-decker homes that so typified the Southie neighborhood of Boston. She hurried beneath a canopy of trees where mothers chatted and toddlers played peek-a-boo around their petticoats. A tiny terrier yipped and danced in circles, coaxing a grin to her lips, while little girls played hopscotch on cobblestone streets dappled with sunlight.

In the tranquil scene, Faith saw no hint of impending troubles, no telltale evidence of “The Great War” raging in a far-off land across the sea. But the qualms of concern were there all the same. Insidious, filtering into their lives like a patchy gloom descending at will––in hushed conversations over back fences or in distracted stares and wrinkled brows. The question was always the same: Would America go to war? One by one, the neutrality of European countries toppled like dominoes. Romania, who had entered the war with the Allies, was quickly overrun by German forces. Now, within mere days, Italy had declared war on Germany as well, sucked into the vortex of hate. Would America be next to enter World War I? Faith shivered at the thought and then gasped when she nearly collided with a freckled boy darting out of Hammond’s confectionary.

“Sorry, miss,” he muttered, clutching a box of Cracker Jacks against plaid knickers.

“No, it’s my fault.” She rumpled his hair. He smiled shyly, breaking through her somber mood. Flashing a gap-toothed grin, he flew off to join his friends. Faith laughed and rounded the corner, sprinting into O’Reilly Park. She breathed in the clean, crisp air thick with the scent of honeysuckle. Exhaling, she felt the tension drift from her body.

Oh, how she loved this neighborhood! This was home, her haven, her own little place of belonging. She loved everything about it, from the dirty-faced urchins lost in their games of stickball, to the revelry of neighborhood pubs whose music floated on the night breeze into the wee hours of the morning. This was the soul of Irish Boston, this south end of the city, a glorious piece of St. Patrick's Isle in the very heart of America. And to Faith, not unlike a large Irish family––brash, bustling and brimming with life.

Out of breath, she choked to a stop at a wall of overgrown forsythia bushes that sheltered her from view. Emptying her arms, she snapped the blanket in the air and positioned it perfectly, smoothing the wrinkles before tossing her journal and prayer book to the edge. She kicked off her shoes and flopped belly down, popping a pencil between her teeth. Thoughts of Collin McGuire suddenly blinked in her brain like a dozen fireflies on a summer night. Her teeth sank into the soft wood of the pencil. She tasted lead and spit.

No! I don’t want to think of him. Not anymore. And especially not with her. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the fluttering pages of her prayer book, conspicuous as it lay open at the edge of the blanket. Her chest heaved a sigh. “I’ve gone and done it again, haven’t I?” She glanced up, her lips quirking into a shaky smile. “People always seem so taken with my green eyes, but I don’t suppose ‘green with envy’ is too appealing, is it? I’ll get this right, I promise. In the meantime, please forgive me?” She breathed in deeply, taking air like a parched person gulping cool water. Her final prayer drifted out on a quiet sigh. “And yes, Lord, please bless my sister.”

She reached for her journal and flipped it open, staring hard at a page she’d penned months ago. Her vision suddenly blurred and she blinked, a tear plunking on the paper. Collin. She traced his name with her finger. It swam before her in a pool of ink.

Dreams. Silly, adolescent dreams, that’s all they were. She had no patience for dreamers. Not anymore. After years of pining over something she could never have, she chose to embrace the cold comfort of reality instead. No more daydreams of his smile, no more journal entries with his name, no more prayers for the impossible. She would not allow it.

She flipped the page over and closed her eyes, but it only produced a flood of memories. Memories of a gangly high school freshman, notebook in hand and heat in her cheeks, trembling on the threshold of the St. Mary’s Gazette. She could still see him looking up from the table, pencil in hand and another wedged behind his ear. He had stared, assessing her over a stack of books.

“Uh, Mm … Mrs. Mallory said … well, I … I m-mean she said that I was to be on the p-paper so I—”

Recognition dawned. His eyes softened and crinkled at the corners just a smitch before that slow smile eased across his lips. “Little Bit! So, you’re the young Emily Dickinson Mrs. Mallory’s been going on about. Well, I am impressed—we’ve never had a freshman on the staff before. Mrs. Mallory told me to take you under my wing.” He pushed pencil and paper across the table and grinned. “Better take notes.”

And, oh … she had! In the year they’d been friends, she’d taken note of that perilous smile whenever he was teasing or the fire in his eyes when somebody missed a deadline. She adored that obstinate strand of dark hair that tumbled over his forehead when he argued a point. And she loved the way his voice turned thick at the mere mention of his father. His love for his father had been fierce. He’d often spoken of the day they would finally work side by side in his father’s tiny printing business. McGuire & Son––just the sound of the words had caused Collin to tear up.

The death of his father a week before graduation had been a shock. Collin never showed up to claim his diploma. Someone said he’d found a job at the steel mill on the east side of town. Occasionally rumors would surface. About how much he’d changed. How wild he’d become. The endless string of hearts he always managed to break. Almost as if his passion and kindness had calcified. Hard and cold, like the steel he forged by day.

Faith dropped back on the blanket, her body still. She squeezed her eyes shut. Despite the warmth of the sun, her day was completely and utterly overcast. How dare her sister be so familiar with the likes of Collin McGuire? How dare he be so forward with her, in broad daylight, and right under their mother's nose? Faith was disgusted, angry and embarrassed, all at the same time. And never more jealous in all her life.


With coat slung over his shoulder and a stride in his step, Collin whistled his way to the corner of Baker and Brae. Slowing, he turned onto his street, keenly aware his whistling had faded. The bounce in his gait slowed to sludge as he neared the ramshackle flat he shared with his mother. At the base of the steps, he glanced up, his stomach muscles tensing as they usually did when he came home.

Home. The very word had become an obscenity. This house hadn’t been a home since his father’s last breath over three years ago. She’d made certain of that. Collin sighed, mounting the steep, cracked steps littered with flowering weeds. Sidestepping scattered pieces from a child’s erector set, his eyes flitted to his mother’s window. The crooked, yellowed shade was still down. Good. Maybe he could slip in and out.

He turned the knob quietly and eased himself into the front room, holding his breath as he closed the door. The click of the lock reverberated in his ears.

“It’s a real shame you don’t bother to dress that nicely for the good Lord.”

Collin spun around, his heart pounding. He forced a smile to his lips. “Mother! I thought you might be in bed with one of your headaches. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I’m sure you didn’t.” Katherine McGuire stood in the doorway of her bedroom with arms folded across her chest, a faded blue dressing gown wrapped tightly around her regal frame. Her lips pressed into a thin line, as if a smile would violate the cool anger emanating from her steel-gray eyes.

When his mother did smile at him, an uncommon thing in itself, it was easy to see why his father had fallen hopelessly in love with her. At forty-one, she was still a striking woman. Rich, dark hair with a hint of gray only served to heighten the impact of the penetrating eyes now focused on him. Before she had married his father, she had been a belle of society. The air of refinement bred in her was evident as she stood straight and tall. She lifted her chin to assess him through disapproving eyes.

“She’s too good for the likes of you, you know.”

He stared back at her, a tic jerking in his cheek. Every muscle and sinew were poised to strike. He clamped his jaw, biting back the bitter retort that weighted his tongue. No, he would not allow her to win. Ever. He tossed his coat on the hook by the door and turned, a stiff smile on his face. “She doesn’t care, Mother. She’s in love.”

“Her father will. It’s not likely he’ll want a pauper courting his daughter.”

Collin shook his head and laughed, the sound of it hollow. He avoided her eyes as he headed to his room at the back of the flat. “I won’t be a pauper forever,” he called over his shoulder. “I’ve got plans.”

“So did your father. And you saw where they took him.”

Collin stopped, his back rigid and his eyes stinging with pent-up fury. He clenched and unclenched his fists. How had a man as good and kind as his father allowed her to control him? His mouth hardened. It didn’t matter. She would never control him. Not in his emotions, nor in his life. He exhaled slowly, continuing down the shadowy hall. “Have a good day, Mother,” he said. And closing his bedroom door behind him, he shut her out with a quiet click of the lock.


“But, Mother, it’s not fair! Why can’t Faith do it?” Charity demanded, wielding a stalk of celery in one hand and a paring knife in the other.

Marcy O’Connor didn’t have to look up from the cake she was frosting to know she had a fight on her hands. Usually she enjoyed this time of day, when the coolness of evening settled in and her children huddled in the warmth of the kitchen near the wood-burning stove. Tonight, five-year-old Katie sat Indian-style, force-feeding her bear from an imaginary teacup while her brother, Steven, a mature eight years old, practiced writing vocabulary words on a slate. On the rug in front of the fire sprawled twelve-year-old Elizabeth, a faraway look in her eyes as she lost herself in a favorite book. Marcy set the finished cake aside and reached for the warm milk and yeast. She poured it into a bowl of flour and began rolling up the sleeves of her blouse.

"I don't understand why Faith can't do it. She doesn't have anything else to do." Charity turned back to the sink to assault the celery with the knife.

"But, Mother, you know I'm reading to Mrs. Gerson Saturday evening or I’d be happy to stay with the children." Faith's tone sounded cautious as she appeared to devote full attention to chopping carrots for the stew. In unison, both girls looked up at their mother.

Marcy couldn't remember when she had felt so tired. Her eyes burned with fatigue as she kneaded the dough for the bread she was preparing. With the back of her hand, she pushed at a wisp of hair, a stray from the chignon twisted at the nape of her neck, feeling every bit of her forty years. She eyed her daughters with a tenuous smile, her mind flitting to a time when she’d been as young. A girl with golden hair and summer-blue eyes who’d won the heart of Patrick Brendan O'Connor and become his “Irish rose.” Marcy sighed. Well, tonight, the “rose” was pale, wilted, and definitely not up to a thorny confrontation between her two daughters.

She paused, her hands crusted with dough. "Tell me, Charity, why is it so important you’re free on this Saturday night, in particular?" Marcy didn’t miss the slight blush that crept into Charity's cheeks, nor the look on Faith’s face as she stopped to watch her sister’s response, cutlery poised mid-air.

"Well, there's a dance social at St. Agatha's. I was hoping to go, that's all."

Marcy resumed kneading the dough with considerably more vigor than before. “And with whom will you be going, may I ask?"

"Well … there's a group of us, you see …"

"Mmmm. Would a certain Collin McGuire be among them?" Marcy's fingers were flying.

Charity’s blush was full hue, blotching her face with a lovely shade of rose. "Well, yes … I think so … perhaps … of course, I'm not definitely sure …"

A thin cloud of flour escaped into the air as Marcy slapped the dough from her hands. "Charity, we've been over this before. Neither your father nor I are comfortable with you seeing that McGuire boy. He's too old."

"But he's only three years older than Faith,” Charity pleaded.

"Yes, and that's too old for you. And too old for your sister when it comes to the likes of him. Absolutely not. Your father will never allow it."

"But why, Mother? Mrs. McGuire is a good woman—"

"Yes, she's a good woman, who, I'm afraid, has let her son get the best of her. Ever since his father died, that boy has been nothing but trouble. He's fast, Charity, out for himself and willing to hurt anyone in the bargain. You can't possibly see or understand that now because you're only sixteen. But mark my words, your father and I are saving you a lot of heartbreak."

Marcy dabbed her forehead with the side of her sleeve while Faith scooped up carrots and plopped them into the boiling cauldron of stew. The kitchen was heating up, both from the fire of the stove and Charity’s seething glare.

"It's because of Faith, isn't it?" Charity demanded, slamming her fist on the table.

"Charity Katherine O'Connor!" Marcy whirled around, her tone scathing.

"It's true! You don't want me entertaining beaus because poor, little Faith sits home like a bump on a log and couldn't get a suitor if she advertised in The Boston Herald!"

Faith’s mouth gaped open and color seeped from her face. Her knuckles clenched white on the carrot she stabbed in the air. "I could have more beaus, too, if I flirted like one of the cheap girls at Brannigan’s!”

"Faith Mary O'Connor!” Marcy’s tone suggested sacrilege, her fingers twitching in the dough. The kitchen was deathly quiet except for the rolling boil of the stew. Katie began to whine, and Elizabeth bundled her in her arms, calming her with a gentle shush.

Charity leaned forward. Her lips curled in contempt. "You couldn't get beaus if you lined ‘em up and paid ‘em!"

"At least I wouldn't pay them with favors on the side porch …"

Marcy flinched as if slapped. "What?” she breathed. She turned toward Faith whose hand flew to her mouth in a gasp at the shock of her own words. Charity’s face was as white as the flour on Marcy’s hands. “With whom?” Marcy whispered.

“Collin McGuire,” Faith said, her voice barely audible.

It might as well have been an explosion. Marcy gasped. “Is this true, Charity? Look at me! Is this true?"

Charity's watery gaze met her mother's and she nodded, tears trickling her cheeks.

Marcy barely moved a muscle. "Faith, take the children upstairs."

Faith was silent as she picked Katie up to carry her from the room. Elizabeth followed with Steven behind. Charity was sobbing. Without a word, Marcy walked to the sink to wash the dough from her hands, then returned to her daughter's side, wrapping her arms around her. At her touch, Charity crumpled into her embrace like a wounded child. Marcy stroked her hair, waiting for the sobs to subside. When they did, she lifted Charity's quivering chin and looked in the eyes of the daughter-child who so wanted to be a woman.

"Charity, I love you. But that love charges me with responsibility for your well-being and happiness. I know you can’t understand this now, nor do you want to, but you must trust us. Collin McGuire is not the boy for you. He’s trouble, Charity. Behind that rakish smile and Irish charm is a young man whose only thought is for himself. I've seen you smile and flirt with a number of young lads, and I suppose with most young men, that's innocent enough. But not with him. It's stoking a fire that could seriously burn you. Now tell me what happened on the porch."

Charity sniffed, wiped her nose with her sleeve and straightened her shoulders. "He … he wants me to go to the social and he … Mother, it was only a kiss!"

"Yes, and I'm only your mother. Charity, I love you very much, but you’ll not be going to the social this Saturday nor anywhere else for the next month. You will come straight home after school each day and complete your studies. And you will have the chore of doing the supper dishes for four weeks." Marcy's tone softened. "But only because I love you."

Charity’s eyes glinted as she spun on her heel and headed for the door. "I could certainly do with a little less love, Mother," she hissed.

Marcy couldn't help but smile to herself. She had been sixteen once.


The door flew open and a blast of cool air surged in. Faith braced herself. Charity stood, wild-eyed, hands fisted at her sides. “I hate you!” she screamed. She slammed the door hard and leaned against it, her chest heaving from the effort. "I will never forgive you for what you did. You are a wicked, evil person, and I hope you die an old maid!" She lunged and knocked Faith flat on the bed, yanking a fistful of hair.

“Ow!” Faith hollered, pain unleashing her fury. She kneed Charity in the stomach and

rolled her over, pinning her to the bed. "Stop it, Charity––I mean it! I never meant to tell Mother anything, and you know it. But you were so mean and hateful, it just popped out.” Her breath came in ragged gasps. “Look, I don't want to fight with you."

Charity scowled. "Fine way to prove it. I still don't know if I'm going to forgive you. You've gone and ruined everything with Collin. It’s going to be twice as difficult to see him now." She tugged her arms free and pushed her away.

In slow motion, Faith sat on the bed, incredulous her sister would even entertain the thought of defying their mother. "But you're not supposed to. Not now, not ever––that's the whole point Mother's been making. Don't you understand that?"

"Yes, I understand that," Charity mimicked. "My head knows it, but I’m afraid my heart’s having a bit of a problem." She stood up from the bed and smiled. "But you don’t quite get it either, do you, Faith? I love him. It's as simple as that. Mother may forbid me from seeing him, but she can't forbid me from loving him." Charity posed in the mirror, then hugged herself and whirled around, her golden hair spinning about her like a fallen halo.

Faith’s jaw dropped. "You can't love him! You’re sixteen, and he’s twenty-one. You don't even know him!"

"Oh, yes, I do,” she breathed, “and he’s wonderful!” She gave Faith a sly smile. “You know the studying I've been doing at the library? Well, I've been studying all right––my favorite subject in the whole world."

Faith’s facial muscles slacked into shock, prompting a peal of laughter from her sister. Charity plopped on the bed and grabbed her hand. "Oh, Faith, he's amazing! He's funny and bright, and all I know is I'm happier than I've ever been.”

"You didn't look so happy on the porch this afternoon." Faith snatched her hand away.

A flicker of annoyance flashed on Charity's face and then disappeared into a sheepish grin. "Yes, I know, he can be maddening at times. It’s part of his charm, I suppose. But I can handle him." Charity stood and reached for the hairbrush. She began stroking her hair in a trancelike motion.

"You didn't appear to be the one doing the handling …"

The brushing stopped. Slowly Charity turned, all smiles diminished. "I know what I'm doing, and I'll thank you to stay out of it. I love him. That's all there is to it." Charity tossed the brush on the bed and turned to leave, but not before bestowing one final smile. "I trust you, Faith. We’re sisters. And sisters love each other, right?"

Faith gritted her teeth. The Bible she read to Mrs. Gerson every Saturday night claimed "love never fails." She certainly hoped not.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson

I loved this book. The idea of house-flipping is just fun. If I wasn't... well, me, I would totally enjoy doing that some day. Like Gretchen, though, I would probably fall totally and completely in love with the house and.... Well. But if I get a guy like Noah, dang, point me at it. *grins*

Apparently I laughed too much and too loudly while reading this book, because it is now sitting on Mom's endtable to be read relatively soon. Like me in some ways, anything that doesn't have a due date takes a low priority, but I think she'll be getting to A Mile in My Flip-Flops soon. I just had way too much fun reading it!

This month's Teen FIRST book, Mixed Bags was the first Melody Carlson book I'd ever read. (I am obviously not the average Christian teen girl here... She's how many books?) This was the second. I'm starting to wonder... What else have I missed out on?

It is July FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and her book:

A Mile in My Flip-Flops

WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)


In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.

Visit Melody's website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.

Don't miss her latest teen fiction, Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2).

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1400073146

ISBN-13: 978-1400073146


I’m not the kind of girl who wants anyone to feel sorry for her. So after my fiancé jilted me less than four weeks before our wedding date, and since the invitations had already been sent, my only recourse was to lie low and wait for everyone to simply forget. Consequently, I became a recluse. If I wasn’t at work, teaching a delightful class of five-year-olds, who couldn’t care less about my shattered love life, I could be found holed up in my apartment, escaping all unnecessary interaction with “sympathetic” friends.

And that is how I became addicted to HGTV and ice cream. Okay, that probably calls for some explanation. HGTV stands for Home and Garden TV, a network that runs 24/7 and is what I consider the highest form of comfort TV. It is habit forming, albeit slightly mind numbing. And ice cream obviously needs no explanation.

Other than the fact that my dad, bless his heart, had seven quart-sized cartons of Ben & Jerry’s delivered to my apartment the day after Collin dumped me. Appropriately enough, dear old Dad (who knows me better than anyone on the planet) selected a flavor called Chocolate Therapy, a product worthy of its name and just as addictive as HGTV.

But now, eighteen months and twenty-two pounds later, I seem to be in a rut. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so.

“Come on, Gretchen,” urges my best friend, Holly, from her end of the phone line. “Just come with us–please!”

“Right…,” I mutter as I lick my spoon and dip it back into a freshly opened carton of Chunky Monkey–also appropriately named, but let’s not go there. Anyway, not only had I moved on to new ice cream flavors, but I also had given up using bowls. “Like I want to tag along with the newlyweds. Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Like I keep telling you, we’re not newlyweds anymore,” she insists. “We’ve been married three months now.”


“And it’s Cinco de Mayo,” she persists, using that little girl voice that I first heard when we became best friends back in third grade. “We always go together.”

I consider this. I want to point out that Holly and I used to always go to the Cinco de Mayo celebration together–as in past tense. And despite her pity for me, or perhaps it’s just some sort of misplaced guilt because she’s married and I am not, I think the days of hanging with my best friend are pretty much over now. The image of Holly and Justin, both good looking enough to be models, strolling around holding hands with frumpy, dumpy me tagging along behind them like their poor, single, reject friend just doesn’t work for me.

“Thanks anyway,” I tell her. “But I’m kind of busy today.”

“So what are you doing then?” I hear the challenge in her voice, like she thinks I don’t have anything to do on a Saturday.

I slump back into the sofa and look over to the muted TV, which is tuned, of course, to HGTV, where my favorite show, House Flippers, is about to begin, and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. “I’m, uh…I’ve got lesson plans to do,” I say quickly. This is actually true, although I don’t usually do them until Sunday evening.

She snickers. “Yeah, that’s a good one, Gretch. I’ll bet you’re vegging out in front of HGTV with a carton of Chocolate Fudge Brownie.”

“Wrong.” Okay, Holly is only partially wrong. Fortunately, I haven’t told her about my latest flavor.

“Come on,” she tries again. “It’ll be fun. You can bring Riley along. He’d probably like to stretch his legs.”

I glance over to where my usually hyper, chocolate Lab mixed breed is snoozing on his LL Bean doggy bed with a chewed-up and slightly soggy Cole Haan loafer tucked under his muzzle. “Riley’s napping,” I say. “He doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“Like he wouldn’t want to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine?”

“We already had our walk today."

Holly laughs. “You mean that little shuffle you do over to the itty bitty park across the street from your apartment complex? What’s that take? Like seven and a half minutes for the whole round trip? That’s not enough exercise for a growing dog like Riley.”

“I threw a ball for him to chase.”

“So there’s nothing I can do or say to change your mind?” House Flippers is just starting. “Nope,” I say, trying to end this conversation. “But thanks for thinking of me.”

“Want me to bring you back an empanada?”

“Sure,” I say quickly. “You guys have fun!” Then I hang up and, taking the TV off mute, I lean back into the soft chenille sofa and lose myself while watching a hapless couple from Florida renovate a seriously run-down split-level into something they hope to sell for a profit. Unfortunately, neither of them is terribly clever when it comes to remodeling basics. And their taste in interior design is sadly lacking too. The woman’s favorite color is rose, which she uses liberally throughout the house, and she actually thinks that buyers will appreciate the dated brown tiles and bathroom fixtures in the powder room. By the time the show ends, not only is the house still on the market despite the reduced price and open house, but the couple’s marriage seems to be in real trouble as well.

“Too bad,” I say out loud as I mute the TV for commercials. Riley’s head jerks up, and he looks at me with expectant eyes.

“You just keep being a good boy,” I tell him in a soothing tone. Hopefully, he’ll stretch out this midday nap a bit longer. Because once Riley starts moving, my tiny apartment seems to shrink, first by inches and then by feet.

My hope for an elongated nap crumbles when his tail begins to beat rhythmically on the floor, almost like a warning–thump, thump, thump–and the next thing I know, he’s up and prowling around the cluttered living room. Riley isn’t even full grown yet, and he’s already way too much dog for my apartment. Holly warned me that his breed needed room to romp and play. She tried to talk me into a little dog, like a Yorkie or Chihuahua, but I had fallen for those liquid amber eyes…and did I mention that he’s part chocolate Lab? Since when have I been able to resist chocolate? Besides, he reminded me of a cuddly brown teddy bear. But I hardly considered the fact that he would get bigger.

After he climbed into my lap that day, licking my face and smelling of puppy breath and other things that I knew could be shampooed away, there was no way I could leave him behind at the Humane Society. I already knew that he’d been rejected as a Christmas present. Some dimwitted father had gotten him for toddler twins without consulting Mommy first. Even so, Holly tried to convince me that a good-looking puppy like that would quickly find another home.

But it was too late. I knew Riley was meant for me, and that was that. And I had grandiose ideas of taking him for long walks on the beach. “He’ll help me get in shape,” I assured Holly. She’d long since given up on me going to the fitness club with her, so I think she bought into the whole exercise theory. She also bought Riley his LL Bean deluxe doggy bed, which I could barely wedge into my already crowded apartment and now takes up most of the dining area, even though it’s partially tucked beneath a gorgeous craftsman-style Ethan Allen dining room set. Although it’s hard to tell that it’s gorgeous since it’s pushed up against a wall and covered with boxes of Pottery Barn kitchen items that won’t fit into my limited cabinet space.

“This place is way too small for us,” I say to Riley as I shove the half-full ice cream carton back into the freezer. As if to confirm this, his wagging tail whacks an oversized dried arrangement in a large bronze vase, sending seedpods, leaves, and twigs flying across the carpet and adding to the general atmosphere of chaos and confusion.

My decorating style? Contemporary clutter with a little eclectic disorder thrown in for special effect. Although, to be fair, that’s not the real me. I’m sure the real me could make a real place look like a million bucks. That is, if I had a real place…or a million bucks.

I let out a long sigh as I stand amid my clutter and survey my crowded apartment. It’s been like this for almost two years now.

Overly filled with all the stuff I purchased shortly after Collin proposed to me more than two years ago. Using my meager teacher’s salary and skimpy savings, I started planning the interior décor for our new home. I couldn’t wait to put it all together after the wedding.

“Have you ever heard of wedding presents?” Holly asked me when she first realized what I was doing.

“Of course,” I assured her. “But I can’t expect the guests to provide everything for our home. I figured I might as well get started myself. Look at this great set of espresso cups that I got at Crate & Barrel last weekend for thirty percent off.”

“Well, at least you have good taste,” she admitted as she stooped to admire a hand-tied wool area rug I’d just gotten on sale. Of course, she gasped when she saw the price tag still on it. “Expensive taste too!”

“It’ll last a lifetime,” I assured her, just like the Karastan salesman had assured me. Of course, as it turned out, my entire relationship with Collin didn’t even last two years. Now I’m stuck with a rug that’s too big to fit in this crummy little one-bedroom apartment–the same apartment I’d given Mr. Yamamoto notice on two months before my wedding. It was so humiliating to have to beg to keep it after the wedding was cancelled, but I didn’t know what else to do.

And now, a year and a half later, I’m still here. Stuck. It’s like everyone else has moved on with their lives except me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had enough room to make myself at home or enough room for Riley to wag his tail without causing mass destruction…or enough room to simply breathe. Maybe I should rent a storage unit for all this stuff. Or maybe I should move myself into a storage unit since it would probably be bigger than this apartment.

As I pick up Riley’s newest mess, I decide the bottom line is that I need to make a decision. Get rid of some things–whether by storage, a yard sale, or charity–or else get more space. I vote for more space. Not that I can afford more space. I’m already strapped as it is.

Kindergarten teachers don’t make a whole lot. I feel like I’ve created a prison for myself. What used to be a convenient hideout now feels like a trap, and these thin walls seem to be closing in on me daily. Feeling hopeless, I flop back onto the couch and ponder my limited options. Then I consider forgetting the whole thing and escaping back into HGTV, which might call for some more ice cream.

But that’s when I look down and notice my thighs spreading out like two very large slabs of ham. Very pale ham, I might add as I tug at my snug shorts to help cover what I don’t want to see, but it’s not working. I stare at my flabby legs in horror. When did this happen?

I stand up now, trying to erase that frightening image of enormous, white thunder thighs. I pace around my apartment a bit before I finally go and stand in front of an oversized mirror that’s leaning against the wall near the front door. This is a beautiful mirror I got half price at World Market, but it belongs in a large home, possibly over a fireplace or in a lovely foyer. And it will probably be broken by Riley’s antics if it remains against this wall much longer.

But instead of admiring the heavy bronze frame of the mirror like I usually do, I actually look into the mirror and am slightly stunned at what I see. Who is that frumpy girl? And who let her into my apartment? I actually used to think I was sort of good looking. Not a babe, mind you, but okay. Today I see a faded girl with disappointed eyes.

Some people, probably encouraged by Holly, a long-legged dazzling brunette, used to say I resembled Nicole Kidman. Although they probably were thinking of when Nicole was heavier and I was lighter. Now it’s a pretty big stretch to see any similarities. To add insult to injury, Nicole has already hit the big “four o,” whereas I am only thirty-two. Her forties might be yesterday’s twenties, but my thirties look more like someone else’s fifties. And I used to take better care of myself. Okay, I was never thin, but I did eat right and got exercise from jogging and rollerblading. Compared to now, I was in great shape. And my long strawberry blond hair, which I thought was my best asset, was usually wavy and fresh looking, although you wouldn’t know that now. It’s unwashed and pulled tightly into a shabby-looking ponytail, which accentuates my pudgy face and pale skin. Even my freckles have faded. It doesn’t help matters that my worn T-shirt (with a peeling logo that proclaims “My Teacher Gets an A+”) is saggy and baggy, and my Old Navy khaki shorts, as I’ve just observed, are too tight, and my rubber flip-flops look like they belong on a homeless person–although I could easily be mistaken for one if I was pushing a shopping cart down the street.

Then, in the midst of this pathetic personal inventory, my focus shifts to all the junk that’s piled behind me–the boxes, the myriad of stuff lining the short, narrow hallway and even spilling into the open door of my tiny bedroom, which can barely contain the queensize bed and bronze bedframe still in the packing box behind it. If it wasn’t so depressing, it would almost be funny. I just shake my head. And then I notice Riley standing strangely still behind me and looking almost as confused as I feel. With his head slightly cocked to one side, he watches me curiously, as if he, too, is afraid to move. This is nuts. Totally certifiable. A girl, or even a dog, could seriously lose it living like this. Or maybe I already have. They say you’re always the last to know that you’ve lost your marbles.

“It’s time for a change,” I announce to Riley. He wags his tail happily now, as if he wholeheartedly agrees. Or maybe he simply thinks I’m offering to take him on a nice, long walk. “We need a real house,” I continue, gathering steam now. “And we need a real yard for you to run and play in.” Of course, this only excites him more.

And that’s when he begins to run about the apartment like a possessed thing, bumping into boxes and furnishings until I finally open the sliding door and send him out to the tiny deck to calm himself.

After he settles down, I go and join him. It’s pretty hot out here, and I notice that the seedling sunflower plants, ones we’d started in the classroom and I’d brought home to nurture along, are now hanging limp and lifeless, tortured by the hot afternoon sun that bakes this little patio. Just one more thing I hate about this place.

So much for my attempt at terrace gardening. I’d seen a show on HGTV that inspired me to turn this little square of cement deck into a real oasis. But in reality it’s simply a barren desert that will only get worse as the summer gets hotter. I feel like I’m on the verge of tears now. It’s hopeless.

This is all wrong. On so many levels. This is not where I was supposed to be at this stage of the game. This is not the life I had planned. I feel like I’ve been robbed or tricked or like someone ripped the rug out from under me. And sometimes in moments like this, I even resent God and question my faith in him. I wonder why he allows things like this to happen. Why does he let innocent people get hurt by the selfishness of others? It just doesn’t make sense. And it’s not fair.

Oh, I’ve tried to convince myself I’m over the fact that my ex fiancé, Collin Fairfield, was a total jerk. And I try not to blame him for being swept away when his high school sweetheart decided, after fifteen years of being apart, that she was truly in love with him. I heard that the revelation came to Selena at the same time she received our engraved wedding invitation, which I did not send to her. She wasn’t even on my list.

And I actually believe that I’ve mostly forgiven Collin…and that sneaky Selena too. And I wish them well, although I didn’t attend their wedding last fall. A girl has to draw the line somewhere.

But all that aside, this is still so wrong. I do not belong in this stuffy little apartment that’s cluttered with my pretty household goods. I belong in a real house. A house with a white picket fence and a lawn and fruit trees in the backyard. And being single shouldn’t mean that I don’t get to have that. There must be some way I can afford a home.

Of course, I’m fully aware that real estate isn’t cheap in El Ocaso. It’s on the news regularly. Our town’s prices certainly aren’t as outrageous as some of the suburbs around San Diego, but they’re not exactly affordable on a teacher’s salary. I try not to remember how much I had in my savings account back before I got engaged and got carried away with spending on my wedding and my home. That pretty much depleted what might’ve gone toward a small down payment on what probably would’ve been a very small house. But, hey, even a small house would be better than this prison-cell apartment.

And that’s when it hits me. And it’s so totally obvious I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I will become a house flipper! Just like the people on my favorite HGTV show, I will figure out a way to secure a short-term loan, purchase a fixer-upper house, and do the repairs and decorating myself–with my dad’s expert help, of course!

And then, maybe as early as midsummer, I will sell this beautifully renovated house for enough profit to make a good-sized down payment on another house just for me…and Riley. Even if the secondhouse is a fixer-upper too, I can take my time with it, making it just the way I want it. And it’ll be so much better than where I live now.

I’m surprised I didn’t come up with this idea months ago. It’s so totally simple. Totally perfect. And totally me!

“We are going house hunting,” I announce to Riley as I shove open the sliding door and march back inside the apartment. His whole body is wagging with doggy joy as I quickly exchange my too-tight shorts for jeans and then reach for his leather leash and my Dolce & Gabbana knockoff bag–the one I bought to carry on my honeymoon, the honeymoon that never was. I avoid looking at my image in the big mirror as we make a hasty exit.

“Come on, boy,” I say as I hook the leash to his collar at the top of the stairs. “This is going to be fun!” And since this outing is in the spirit of fun, I even put down the top on my VW Bug, something I haven’t done in ages. Riley looks like he’s died and gone to doggy heaven as he rides joyfully in the backseat, his ears flapping in the breeze. Who knows, maybe we’ll find a house for sale on the beach.

Okay, it’d have to be a run-down, ramshackle sort of place that no one but me can see the hidden value in, but it could happen. And while I renovate my soon-to-be wonder house, Riley can be king of the beach. The possibilities seem limitless. And when I stop at the grocery store to pick up real-estate papers, I am impressed with how many listings there are. But I can’t read and drive, so I decide to focus on driving. And since I know this town like the back of my hand, this should be easy.

But thanks to the Cinco de Mayo celebration, the downtown area is crowded, so I start my search on the south end of town, trying to avoid traffic jams. I’m aware that this area is a little pricey for me, but you never know. First, I pull over into a parking lot and read the fliers. I read about several houses for sale, but the prices are staggering.

Even more than I imagined. Also, based on the descriptions and photos, these houses already seem to be in great shape. No fixer-uppers here. Then I notice some condo units for sale, and I can imagine finding a run-down unit in need of a little TLC, but it’s the same situation. According to the fliers, they’re in tiptop, turnkey shape–recently remodeled with granite counters and cherry hardwood floors and new carpeting and prices so high I can’t imagine doing anything that could push them a penny higher. My profit margin and spirits are steadily sinking. Maybe my idea to flip a house has already flopped. Just like the rest of my life.

Excerpted from A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2008 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.